Monday, July 14, 2014

VA Officials: Agency Can't Revoke Bonuses, Contradicts Earlier Statement To Congress

When do VA Officials start taking the 5th before Congress?

The checks have already been cashed.
Bonuses paid to top executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs who committed misconduct cannot be rescinded, an agency official testified Friday, in direct contradiction to what he told a different panel less than a month ago.
Samuel Retherford, principal deputy assistant secretary for human resources at the veterans’ agency, was asked directly whether bonuses paid to senior executives who created phony medical appointment lists could be rescinded.
“Currently we do not have the authority to go back and rescind an award,” Retherford told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee Friday.
Last month Retherford told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee staff that bonuses could be rescinded for one year after being paid.
The muddled answers come as the VA is mired in ongoing investigations into falsification of records at health facilities nationwide meant to conceal long backlogs in care. Patients in Phoenix and other facilities were put on fake waiting lists to make it appear they were being seen within the deadlines set by agency policy.
Meeting those timeframes was a key component in determining whether top managers in the Senior Executive Service received performance bonuses.
In May, VA officials claimed they had rescinded a $9,345 performance bonus paid in 2013 to Sharon Helman, who was the director of the Phoenix VA hospital where the scandal over phony waiting lists first erupted. Agency officials claimed at the time that Helman’s bonus was rescinded because it was improperly paid due to an administrative error.
While VA officials say Helman’s bonus was rescinded, they have not confirmed the money has been recovered.
Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced on May 30 that steps had been initiated to fire Helman. Shinseki resigned later that day.
Helman’s current status is unclear. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said last month he was confident she was on paid administrative leave, but agency officials have not said for certain whether she is still being paid.
VA officials issued a statement late Friday confirming bonuses cannot be rescinded. Since Helman’s bonus was issued in error, it can be revoked, according to the statement, which provides no information about her current employment status.
VA paid out about $2.7 million in merit bonuses to SES executives in 2013. Bonuses for 2014 have been suspended.
Thank You Wash Examiner and Dapandico.

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